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# # # November 20 2015

Testimony of Kim Welter


Deputy Director of Equality Ohio
Delivered to Counselor, Social Worker & Marriage and
Family Therapist Board
Thank you Brian Carnahan, Terri Hamm, Stephanie
McCloud and Erin Michel for the opportunity to talk
with you about the letters we have delivered through
multiple channels to you over the last few weeks.
Im not going to repeat the content, they are
available for you to read. I was asked to talk about
the letters, however.
I attended several conferences in the process of
collecting these letters. Often, I had several people
at my table at one time, and a younger person would
ask is this still a thing? and the older people
would respond it happens ALL the time. One young
woman who works for an organization with the word
pastoral in its title told me they get calls every
week from parents seeking conversion therapy.
I want to tell you why pursuing action against
conversion therapy is important to me and those who
signed these letters. I will, however, restrict my
comments to I statements.
I am not a therapist. But I was a child whose parents
forced me to see a psychoanalyst from the age of 3
until I turned 18. I understand the ravages of
discredited and dangerous practices as my parents have
huge holes in their memories of my childhood due to
undergoing shock therapy.
I have worked with various mental health professional
associations in Ohio and nationally for the past 11
months and have learned a lot.
I believe, along with those who signed this letter,
the majority of Americans, and the literature, that
being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is
not a pathology or disease. Same-gender sexual
orientation and variations in gender identity and
expression are part of the normal spectrum of human

diversity. Our current Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy


has said as much.
Here is how I define conversion therapy. Im going to
read directly from my notes at this point:
Conversion therapy" means any practices or
treatments that seek to change an individuals
sexual orientation or gender identity, including
efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions
or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic
attractions or feelings toward individuals of the
same gender.
Conversion therapy is not counseling that
provides assistance to a person undergoing gender
transition, or counseling that provides
acceptance, support, and understanding of a
person or facilitates a person's coping, social
support, and identity exploration and
development, including sexual-orientation-neutral
interventions to prevent or address unlawful
conduct or unsafe sexual practices, as long as
such counseling does not seek to change an
individuals sexual orientation or gender
identity.
I believe claiming to be able to change a persons
sexual orientation or gender identity is
unprofessional, unethical conduct that should be
subject to discipline from the licensing board.
I know that therapists follow the imperative of do no
harm. I know that clients have the right to selfdetermine. I understand that forced conversion therapy
relies on collusion between the therapist and the
parent or guardian against the client, the minor. In
my view, conversion therapy is a harmful practice, and
so parental consent does not make the practice
acceptable, nor should it absolve a practitioner from
discipline. Parents and guardians should be counseled
about the importance of family acceptance for LGBT
youth and helping families understand the dangers of
conversion therapy. Affirmative therapeutic
interventions should be culturally competent,
including integrating aspects of the psychology of
religion for spiritual clients; not based in stigma or
based on the inaccurate notion that a persons

identity is a mental illness or disorder; and the


therapeutic alliance and relationship are based in
empathy, positive regard, honesty, positive religious
coping, and other factors encompassed in the
affirmative perspective on therapeutic interventions.
I wont repeat the list of professional mental health
organizations that have denounced conversion therapy
they are in the letter. I know that my friend Josh
Culbertson has come before this board to talk about
his experiences. I know that Jody Davis and Joe
Gentilini spoke at a press conference on Tuesday of
this week about this issue and told their story of
surviving conversion therapy. I am heartbroken at the
thought of those who do not survive conversion therapy
and the family dynamics that lead to it.
Studies on youth homelessness tell us that up to 40%
of homeless youth are LGBT, escaping hostile families,
school situations and therapists. If you wish, I can
bring before you people who work with these homeless
youth and more survivors, who can tell you about the
additional harm to these young people from being on
the street and trying to survive.
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, known as TDOR. T-DOR is a ceremony held across the country on
November 20th annually to remember transgender people
who have been killed in the past year. The service
provides an opportunity to remember and honor those
who have been lost. The community has experienced
nearly twice as many murders in 2015 as in 2014 and
has also seen an increase in suicides. This year we
mourn the death of Leelah Alcorn, from suicide, in
Southern Ohio and Bri Golec, from violence, in the
Akron area.
This is suicide prevention week. LGBT people are more
likely than their heterosexual/cisgender counterparts
to attempt suicide. Nearly fifty percent of
transgender and gender variant youth will attempt
suicide before the age of twenty.
I ask you to take from my comments and these letters
the fact that young people can be coerced into
conversion therapy (either directly or indirectly)
and the fact that every mainstream mental health
organization condemns these practices. Your clear

statement on the issue will help to educate parents to


avoid these practices in the first place and give them
somewhere to turn if they are deceived by
practitioners.
Our letter asks you to support a statement denouncing
the discredited practice of conversion therapy.
Ohioans need to be protected from this harmful
practice as a matter of public safety.